A happy ending for Berthoud 4-H kids affected by VS outbreak

By Katie Harris

The Surveyor

An outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis (VS) in the months leading up to the 2019 Larimer County Fair could have meant the abrupt end to a short-lived dream for two Berthoud kids, had fate not intervened.

Cambree Hall and Tucker Stonier had the opportunity to raise livestock for the first time this year, thanks to local 4-H leader Kelly Fischer’s livestock co-op barn, which offers kids who are unable to house their animals at home an alternative.

In its second year, the co-op barn housed a pig for 15-year-old Hall and a lamb for 9-year-old Tucker. The two took shifts, along with the Fischer family, caring for and working with their animals, preparing to show them at fair before auctioning them off at the Junior Livestock Sale.

Courtesy photo – Cambree Hall and her 4H pig.

This year though, Colorado was rattled by an outbreak of VS right before county fairs were scheduled to take place statewide, with Larimer County being hit hardest of all. While the disease primarily affects horses, any property with animals exhibiting symptoms is required to be reported to the state and all animals, including any livestock, living on the premises are subject to quarantine.

When one of Fischer’s kids was turned away from Larimer County Fair because her horse showed early signs of VS, the entire Fischer property was promptly quarantined, meaning Hall and Stonier were unable to show or sell the animals on which they’d spent so much time.

“I was really sad and disappointed when I found out,” said Hall. “I really wanted to go and show at fair with my friends.”

Stonier’s mom, Amy, said her son was devastated when he learned he couldn’t take his lamb, Titan, to fair.

“There were a lot of tears,” she said. “From me, too.”

Amy wasn’t ready to give up though. She decided to look into taking Titan to Colorado State Fair, and learned that doing so would require a vet check. She called Scott J. Martell, who was not only the Fischer family’s veterinarian, but was the same vet who had performed check-ins at fair, and who had been tasked with the unfortunate job of quarantining the co-op barn.

Courtesy photo – Tucker Stonier with his lamb, Titan.

“I just wanted to find out how much a vet check would cost,” said Amy. “Dr. Martell offered to perform the vet check for free and help Tucker with anything else he needed.”

Then Martell went one step further. Having been faced with the heartbreaking job of turning so many hopeful kids away at fair, the vet saw an opportunity to make a difference and jumped on it.

“Kelly had told me about the co-op barn, and about Cambree and Tucker,” said Martell. “I felt that it was important that we made sure those kids got something out of their projects. This was a matter of bad timing and bad luck, nothing to do with husbandry on their part, or on the part of the Fischers.”

Martell offered to buy Stonier’s lamb on the phone with Amy that day, and then did the same for Hall and her pig. 

“I needed to try to step in and help as a small business, not exactly to rectify, but to massage the situation and keep those kids motivated and wanting more next year,” he said.

A prior purchaser at the Larimer County Junior Livestock Sale, Martell said he had a good idea of how much the animals would’ve sold for had they been allowed to go to auction. He presented checks from his business, Martell Equine and Large Animal Medicine, llc, to Hall and Stonier for $800 apiece.

“4-H was a big part of my life as well,” said Martell. “When it came to helping these kids out to keep them motivated and keep them going in 4-H livestock projects, I figured it was the right thing to do to keep their passions and dreams moving forward.”

The veterinarian’s generous offer did just that for Stonier. According to Amy, the first-year 4-Her had been saving birthday money and performing extra chores around the house for years to buy his lamb, which he purchased for $350. Martell’s check covered the costs of buying Titan, as well as the cost of raising him, and will ensure Stonier can buy a new lamb in spring.

Hall, who bought her pig for $200 and spent an additional $250-$300 on care, said it warmed her heart Martell was willing to help them, and she was happy to have made a profit this year. The Berthoud High School sophomore said her fair focus next year will likely be on trying out for Larimer County Rodeo Queen, so she plans to put the money toward buying a car.

“The kids were both very appreciative that we were able to purchase their animals and help them out,” said Martell. “Hopefully we gave them enough, not only to help cover their costs from this year, but to help get them going next year.”

Hall said she’s grateful to have had the opportunity to learn about a new animal this year, and is taking the rest in stride.

“I learned a lot in the livestock barn, and it was nice having other people out there who were able to help me. It was better than being on my own,” she said. “I got the experience, just not the experience I’d wanted. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and realize stuff happens.”

Stonier also used this year as a learning experience, according to Amy, and is looking forward to using his newfound knowledge to help a friend raise a lamb for the first time next year.
“We are so extremely grateful for what Scott the vet did for Tucker by purchasing his lamb,” said Amy. “It brought tears to my eyes that he would offer to do this for my son who he’s never met.”

As for Martell, he and his family will have full hearts this year, as well as full stomachs.

“I’m glad that in a poor situation I was able to have a positive effect,” he said. “As a small business in the community it’s an opportunity I’m happy to have. I would hope all businesses, large and small, would take the same opportunity.”

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